LaPoint. Stacy is a single parent and founder and President
of Companion Natural Pet
Food of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
It was a beautiful weekend for Milwaukee’s 20th Year Anniversary
Pride Fest. The sky was a brilliant blue over Lake Michigan all
three days and the fest grounds buzzed with the vibrant energy and
talents of the Wisconsin LGBTQ community and their allies.
I spent some time volunteering for the Lesbian Alliance sponsored
wine booth Friday night and the Milwaukee Rainbow Families booth
Saturday. The matter-of-fact confidence, love and self respect
among the people I met, was inspiring to say the least.
Milwaukee Rainbow Families shared booth space with the Milwaukee
PFLAG chapter. Watching the moms and dads talk to others about
their support and dedication for their gay children seemed like the
truest kind of love imaginable to me. Their effort to protect
their children from discrimination and cultivate awareness and
fairness for their kid’s lives was so heart-warming to watch.
They took turns counter protesting outside the front gate and
staffing the PFLAG booth, speaking out to everyone that walked
past, making sure anyone who needed information would receive
LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care, an arm of Children’s Service Society
of Wisconsin. These dedicated people offer support, mentoring and
counseling to the segment of our LGBTQ community most in
need—kids in the foster care system (many times ending up there
because their families abandon them due to their orientation), who
in some way are grappling with coming out, being out or questioning
their orientation. The whole concept made me think fostering
LGBTQ youth may be in my future, if not some kind of work to help
this especially vulnerable segment of our community.
Having spent time with many of the hardest working members and
allies of the LGBTQ community, I felt motivated and energized as I
left the fest grounds Saturday. But something happened while I
passed a group of protesters that reminded me of a book I just
finished, simply called Pride, by Michael Eric Dyson. It’s one
in a series of books categorized under Religion/Philosophy by
Oxford University Press & The New York Public Library.
This particular book points out that pride is the only one of the
seven deadly sins with a virtuous side. Its author, Dyson,
considered one of the nation’s foremost intellectuals, shares
many musings about the different ways pride can be healthy, yet so
quickly spiral into something harmful and even deadly. In the
final chapter called “My Country Right or Wrong? National
Pride,” Dyson looks broadly at the many examples of religious
pride fueling violence against minorities in our society, culture
and history. He suggests the religious bigotry that encouraged
the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center is one and the same as
that, that fuels social stigma and violence experienced by victims
of racism, sexism and homophobia in our society.
As I stood waiting for a friend to pick me up, I listened to the
back and forth, sometimes hostile words between religious
protesters and Pride Fest attendees. As the young, Right Wing,
Bible quoting zealots spewed verses and preached about our eventual
atonement for our sins, a young girl sporting a frizzy rainbow wig
stepped forward and spit in the face of a female protester.
People on both sides gasped with horror as it was obvious she had
crossed a line. Another young man yelled out “you just got spit
on by a 15 year old.” It was then that I realized the flip side
of pride. That bigotry has many victims, on all sides. That
one’s pride is only as virtuous as their ability to keep it from
victimizing someone else. That LGBTQ youth need role models,
within the LGBTQ community, to learn how to stand up for their
equality without creating the same kind of hate and bigotry that
they are so desperate to end.
I still left the fest feeling a sense of hope, belonging and
strength in numbers. A record attendance was made this year. I
saw many demonstrations of truly virtuous pride over the entire
three days. Ultimately, though, it seems to me that this annual
celebration of Pride, itself, is a benchmark for the work that lies
ahead for us all.